How to limit your liability if your dog bitesWhat is the best route to follow should your pet bite one of your guests or run off and nip an innocent bystander?
Encourage Medical Attention
As the owner of a dog who bites an innocent person, you have a vested interest in that person recovering from the bite as quickly and as completely as possible. What you do not want is for a simple bite to turn into a medical catastrophe if not treated appropriately and rapidly. If the victim admits that he won’t seek professional medical attention (perhaps because of a lack of health insurance), you should contact your insurance company and your lawyer immediately. They may or may not consider suggesting that you somehow contribute financially to permit quick treatment of the injury, depending on circumstances.
Consider Getting a Police Report
Though it may seem counterintuitive, calling the police to take an accident report at the scene of a dog bite can be a good idea. Realistically, an owner of a biting pet should and inevitably will be held legally and financially accountable for the attack. But the animal’s owner should not have to pay any more than what is legally owed. In today’s “get something for nothing” world, it is not uncommon for persons injured on the job or in an accident to try to “milk” the injury into an unjustifiably large settlement or a long period of “disability” payments.
An on-site police report can actually be helpful and keep a victim from successfully claiming injuries and complications that could not possibly have been a result of the dog bite. It also proves that the dog owner stayed around to make sure that the victim’s medical needs were documented.
Maintain Available Vaccination Records
It is bad enough having your dog bite a member of the public. It’s even worse to end up with your dog getting arrested and hauled off to the doggie lockup because you can’t get your hands on proof of vaccination.
And heaven forbid your dog should bite somebody, say, on the Friday of a Monday holiday weekend: If you personally possess no rabies vaccination proof and your veterinarian and town clerk are closed for the long holiday, you don’t even want to imagine the liability should the victim have to begin antirabies therapy as a result of your negligence.
Offer to Pay Directly for Care
In today’s bad economy, not every pet owner has the up-front cash to have his pet cared for immediately after a serious attack by someone else’s dog. And if the injured pet’s owner takes her animal to a veterinary clinic, that office probably won’t be willing to accept a vague promise by an owner that “someone else” is responsible for necessary emergency surgery.
Therefore, it is good policy to advise the owner of any animal attacked by your dog that you have a cell phone number and a credit card available to any veterinarian who agrees to perform emergency care on the victim animal. Never give out your credit card information to the pet owner; instead provide appropriate identification and the assurance that you will pay for reasonable treatment at a nearby veterinary hospital once that office calls to explain what care needs to be done.
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